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Camp Verde: Texas Frontier Defense by Joseph Luther (review)

From: Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Volume 116, Number 4, April 2013
pp. 422-423 | 10.1353/swh.2013.0039

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The importance of the frontier and its role in shaping historical events in Texas has pervaded the state's historical literature perhaps more than has any other subject. Defined in the Turnerian sense by Joseph Luther as a line marking the points of "interface between very divergent cultures," (15) the frontier is the central unifying theme of the events he describes and the driving force behind the stories of the Camp Verde area. Since any movement from San Antonio into the Hill Country required travel through Bandera Pass, Luther argues that Camp Verde, situated on the opposite side of a natural "choke point" of European migration, remained a frontier until the late nineteenth century. As such, it remained a place of constant conflict, and its stories are an "exercise in the definition of Texas" (152).

Luther's scope is ambitious. Starting with the formation of the Hill Country's limestone by shallow sea deposits during the Cretaceous Period, Luther describes the erosion processes that led to the creation of Bandera Pass and surrounding environs. Once settled by the prehistoric Clovis people twelve thousand years ago, the Camp Verde area remained home to a variety of tribes until it became dominated by the Apache, and later the Comanche people. The Spanish arrival in the seventeenth century and the establishment of San Antonio in the early eighteenth century created the dividing line of cultures represented by Bandera Pass. The Spanish military and later Mexican presidials, Texas Rangers, U.S .militar,y and local militias all traversed the Camp Verde vicinity in their attempts to end Apache and Comanche raids into European settlements. Camp Verde's namesake military installation was created in 1856 to house a company of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. During its years of active operations, Camp Verde was most notably the site of the U.S. Army's experimental Camel Corps as well as a Confederate-run prisoner of war camp before closing in 1869.

Luther breaks out each topic chronologically by subject, drawing mainly on a wide variety of published primary and secondary works as source material. There is little narrative structure, with each topic and sub-topic being taken in turn, and the frequent references to additional reading as well as map coordinates for site locations often give the work the feel of a reference book or travel guide better suited to a non-chronological format. The large historical and topical scope required a correspondingly large and diverse body of source materials as well. Without relying on any single source too heavily, Luther makes use of scholarly articles, reference material, narrative histories, military records, published primary accounts, newspapers and Internet sources as best suits the topic under discussion. And while these references are not used to develop a thesis beyond the theme of Camp Verde as frontier, they do provide an excellent starting point for the reader's further research and study, as Luther intends they should.

Luther's work is effective in that it succeeds in combing an array of topics into a single work on the history of the Camp Verde area. As a sixth-generation Texan and professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Luther displays a passion for local history and an impressive ability to present the complex geology, archeological treasures and multicultural history of the Camp Verde frontier in a concise and accessible way. Those interested in the storied history of this area would do well to start here.

Copyright © 2013 The Texas State Historical Association
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Andrew Gray. "Camp Verde: Texas Frontier Defense by Joseph Luther (review)." Southwestern Historical Quarterly 116.4 (2013): 422-423. Project MUSE. Web. 8 Jan. 2014. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Gray, A.(2013). Camp Verde: Texas Frontier Defense by Joseph Luther (review). Southwestern Historical Quarterly 116(4), 422-423. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved January 8, 2014, from Project MUSE database.
Andrew Gray. "Camp Verde: Texas Frontier Defense by Joseph Luther (review)." Southwestern Historical Quarterly 116, no. 4 (2013): 422-423. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed January 8, 2014).
T1 - Camp Verde: Texas Frontier Defense by Joseph Luther (review)
A1 - Andrew Gray
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